July 29, 2014

One hundred years ago, the Great War began

It is impossible to overestimate the effect of World War I.  This summer and for the next four years we will learn what we didn't know about the Great War and its disastrous effects on millions of lives across the world

The War That Broke a Century  Peggy Noonan

A king, a kaiser, a czar—all were undone as they realized what they had unleashed with World War I….. It was the great disaster of the 20th century, the one that summoned or forced the disasters that would follow, from Lenin and Hitler to World War II and the Cold War. It is still, a century later, almost impossible to believe that one event, even a war, could cause such destruction, such an ending of worlds.

History still isn't sure and can never be certain of the exact number of casualties. Christopher Clark, in "The Sleepwalkers" (2013), puts it at 20 million military and civilian deaths and 21 million wounded. The war unleashed Bolshevism, which brought communism, which in time would kill tens of millions more throughout the world. (In 1997, "The Black Book of Communism," written by European academics, put the total number at a staggering 94 million.)

Thrones were toppled, empires undone. Western Europe lost a generation of its most educated and patriotic, its future leaders from all classes—aristocrats and tradesmen, teachers, carpenters and poets. No nation can lose a generation of such men without effect. Their loss left Europe, among other things, dumber.

Ghosts of the First World War: Century-old photos of soldiers marching down our streets superimposed on modern-day images
The new photos by Getty Images photographer Peter Macdiarmid have been matched up with archive shots from various image banks.

 Wounded Wwisoldiers Beach
Indian soldiers who were wounded fighting at Flanders recuperate on Bournemouth beach in 1917, while modern-day visitors are also seen there

In the National Geographic, an  Interview with British historian David Reynolds on his  book  The Long Shadow
The Great War, as it came to be known, lasted four years, from 1914 to 1918. But its aftereffects haunted Europe and the rest of the world through the 20th century—and are still felt in our own times.  It helps explain today's bloodshed in the Middle East

Rapunzel-like display outside the Tower of London launched as more than 800,000 ceramic poppies will be planted over the summer to commemorate the First World War

A ceramic poppy will be planted in the Tower's moat for each allied victim.  More than 800,000 poppies will be planted before Armistice Day in November

 Poppies Londontower

In the Atlantic World War I in Photos: Introduction  by Alan Taylor

 Archduke Ferdinand+Sophie

In 1914, Austria-Hungary was a powerful and huge country, larger than Germany, with nearly as many citizens. It had been ruled by Emperor Franz Joseph I since 1848, who had been grooming his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the heir to the throne. In this photo, taken in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Czech Countess Sophie Chotek, are departing a reception at City Hall. Earlier that morning, on the way to the hall, their motorcade had been attacked by one of a group of Serbian nationalist assassins, whose bomb damaged one car and injured dozens of bystanders. After this photo was taken, the Archduke and his wife climbed into the open car, headed for a nearby hospital to visit the wounded. Just blocks away though, the car paused to turn around, directly in front of another assassin, who walked up to the car and fired two shots, killing both Franz Ferdinand and his wife. (AP Photo)

How the Peace Pope Almost Put an End to the First World War

Under Pope Benedict XV (1854-1922), the Vatican became a center for effective Christian peace activism. Benedict took office on September 3, 1914, a nightmare moment in European history. …..

In November 1914, he protested, “There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain. Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another, that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature, all members of the same human society? Who would recognize brothers, whose Father is in Heaven?”    In 1916, he famously lamented “the suicide of civilized Europe.”
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Benedict also offered strictly practical plans for limiting the conflict…..In retrospect, though, Benedict’s ideas impress by their practicality. If his principles sound familiar, that is because they were substantially incorporated into Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points of the following year, which supplied the terms on which the defeated Germans finally accepted an Armistice. Carried out on the lines Benedict envisaged, his 1917 scheme might well have avoided the disasters of the post-1918 world, and even the Second World War.

Life on the eve of war

We’ve delved into the Telegraph’s archives and read the newspapers of 1914. They show just how unaware we were of the horrors ahead. This is the life Britain unwittingly left behind…..What is so unnerving reading the Telegraph in those days after the assassination was the way life carried on as normal. People continued to browse dress patterns, plan weekend drives, tear out recipes and queue at cinemas, quite oblivious to what was coming. This is the life they were about to leave behind forever.

….Fashion -Outfits called “ready-mades” had arrived in the West End shops and women began daring to go hatless,
…..Cars and planes -There are fewer fatalities on the roads now than there were before the First World War, despite there being eighty times more motor vehicles. Danger seemed dashing, and brakes could be a little tricky, back then.
….Food -Tinned food was all the rage, as were cookery books and new home refrigeration devices. But we still hadn’t learned to prepare vegetables properly.
….Art & Culture.  Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford reigned supreme at the cinema, Serge Diaghilev was a sensation at Drury Lane and the works of a young Pablo Picasso shocked the nation.
….Women’s Rights - The Telegraph called it “a hopeless exercise” but the suffragettes were bolder than ever in their fight for women's right to vote in 1914.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 29, 2014 5:38 PM | Permalink